by Simon Pilling, specialist in Japanese lacquer ware
Lacquer – the most perfect and finest objects ever issued from the hand of man (Louis Gonse, L’Art Japonais, 1900)
Lacquer ware has traditionally defined arts of Japan in the West – the western name ‘japanning’ once having as powerful a resonance as ‘china’ still has in defining the art from Japan’s larger neighbour.
Traditional lacquerware is known by its surface finish – frequently highly reflective, with exquisite surface decoration in the form of makie and inlay.
The work of innovative contemporary artist Fujino Seiichiro is inspired by looking beneath the surface, to surprise and intrigue in the relationship between finish and core. It is a contemporary approach that seeks to find the essence of our fascination with an object, exploiting the tension we sense between outer coating and something quite different that lies within.
In his Standing Tray a wooden core, that forms the foot of the piece, has been powerfully worked and carved to create a primitive solidity. Some areas are simply coated with lacquer while others are highly worked polished surfaces incorporating coloured and metallic finishes. The tray of the stand, at first sight a regular plane, has a subtly complex and visually very satisfying geometry. Its surface incorporates distressed silver leaf whose patterning could be read as the memories of precious items displayed in the past.
Two Vessels – entitled Jiju (cross) and Masu (measuring container) show a complex balance of geometry and texture that draws the viewer in to their mysterious, primitive forms, given great life and depth by the use of red and metallic finishes.
Fujino’s current work Iwahai Ryuten explores the traditional tea-bowl, chawan, – a vessel that expresses a central traditional element of Japanese life – the Way of Tea. The bowl is first carved from a single piece of camphor, contrasting smooth with rough in a range of textures to create a complex form with great tactile quality that sits naturally in the hands. Lacquering enhances the textures, adding colour and metallic reflection, in a transparency that never eclipses the core material.
The full depth of Fujino’s pieces reveal themselves slowly, prompting speculation regarding both intent and technique.
Simon Pilling, MA, RIBA, FRSA is a graduate of Sotheby’s MA in East Asian Art and is based in London, UK. He is a member of the Asian Art in London group of dealers and specialises in 20th century and contemporary Japanese lacquer.
Simon Pilling East Asian Art & Interiors
PO Box 40062 London N6 6XB
I loved this article. I had the great pleasure of witnessing a Master Japanese Laquerer when I visited Japan. The intention toward one accord with each piece is a true wonder!